We wish you a tacky Christmas

I've spent very few Christmas periods away from Cardiff. One year we went to Canada, and in 2004 Haley and I were on honeymoon in Paris (which was gorgeous). This year, as my previous blog (California when it drizzles ) said, we're spending Christmas in Santa Barbara. Until this week we've had uncharacteristically bad weather, with landslides in some parts of California and half the annual rainfall in 6 days. Which is really amusing, because to me it was rather like the childhood summers I spent in South Wales. You'd eat mangled sandwiches in the car, looking at the beach from the backseat, crammed in next to buckets, spades, windbreakers, and optimistic looking inflatable animals, while rain hammered on the roof so loudly you can't hear Jimmy Young on the radio.

I don't know about the rest of USA but Santa Barbara has a tasteful sort of kitch when it comes to Christmas decorations. In Cardiff we have one or two houses which spend a lot on crappy Christmas lights, and probably more on electricity. There is one house (on North Rd) which causes accidents every year from rubber-necking motorists.

The lights here are a different matter. In UK whatever was used last year or happened to be on special offer is thrown together in hurriedly constructed insult on the eyes. In California, it seems like people have not only put thought into their display, but they have co-ordinated and planned them. There is a creepy dog statue in a front garden near the Mission, which we had always assumed was a revered effigy to a deceased pet. This season he has been decorated with a red nose, antlers and pulling a sleigh. Genius.

The tree decorations (which we would call 'baubles' but because of the american lack of diphthong have to be called 'glass tree ornaments') are a thing to behold. You can find just about anything preserved in opaque glass, including a watch, ferry, squirrel, triceratops and the ultimate Chrismas fortune cookie (which looks unfortunately like camel toe). Its not a criticism, but I just find it all little bizarre.

We've been out to buy a tree and fairy lights. We weren't going to bother but because part of the family didn't make it, we're going to make the rented house a little more festive. My parents have been stranded in UK, my sister made it through Snowmageddon as did our friends Paul and Ruairidh. The car broke down earlier today but are we downhearted? Never! Crack open the sherry! Midnight Mass isn't as fun when you're sober.